Car Wash: A Lucrative And Resourceful Venture
Market Large And Not Limited By Seasons
Appearance matters a lot in anything one does, be it in one’s dress sense or the general look of one’s vehicle. Like good dressing, neat and well-kept vehicles speak volume of the owner or driver. Perhaps it is for this reason that some vehicle or motorcycle owners wash their vehicles on a daily basis. However, there are some who, for one reason or the other, cannot undertake this chore and so depend on others to do it for them.
This also accounts for the numerous car wash centres, which are springing up by the day. To some resourceful people with foresight, this has become a steady source of livelihood. These centres are usually located in busy areas such as filing stations, big hotels, supermarkets and even mechanic workshops, where they are guaranteed to attract high patronage.
And though their charges differ from one location to the other, these sharp-witted businessmen use different processes to ensure that teeming clients are more than satisfied, as they leave with their gleaming vehicles.
In Friday Akpan’s view, the business would continue to grow for as long as people regularly acquire vehicles and would want them to look neat, irrespective of the season. Akpan, who has been in the business for over five years, said some people do not have the patience and skill to wash their vehicles properly. So they go for the services of professionals, who clean the vehicle thoroughly inside out.
“Car washing has gone beyond what anyone can just go into. You need to have the know-how, be aware of the type of detergent, water and brushes to use. While some water and detergent could damage the car colour, hard brushes would leave marks on the body; so it’s always good to know the exact material to use to get the right result and satisfy your customers.
“It is also noteworthy that the materials used on the body is usually different from that used on the glasses. One needs this knowledge because the use of wrong materials could leave rainbow colours on the screen and this is dangerous when driving at night.
“Daily, I wash about 15 different vehicles. I have also come across different vehicles with different colours that one cannot just wash with any detergent, if the right result is to be achieved. One has to study all this to know on which vehicle to use a wax stripper, shampoo or any other detergent.
“I charge between N1, 000 and N2, 500 depending on the type of vehicle, chemicals to use and the process of washing it. Besides the normal washing, we sometimes apply car body polish, if the owner requires it. The polish brings out the sheen and makes the vehicle glitter in the sun,” he said.
Explaining that there are different charges for washing different parts of a vehicle, Wasiu Oluyomi disclosed that manual wash is cheaper than using machines. While the manual process involves scrubbing the body of the vehicle with soft sponge or brush and soapy water, machine makes the work faster, as one could wash as many vehicles as possible in a day. Naturally, the charges for the two processes are not the same because machine makes the finishing better, while manual sometimes leave scuffs even though the cleaning was done with soft cloths.
“With pressure machine, I can wash two to four vehicles an hour, depending on their sizes, while more than an hour could be spent on a vehicle, if manual process is used. So, for this, the charges are different. While manual goes for N500 and N1, 500, machine wash goes for N1, 500 and N3, 000, depending on the vehicle and how you want it washed.
“If you want the underneath properly washed, reaching the corners to remove mud, together with washing the tyres and wheels and removing other things that could hasten rust, the fees are different, because it requires a lot more and one has to go under the vehicle to do all that. However, one could also wash the interior and exterior, brush the seats and remove any dirt in the seat pockets, which attracts a different charge.
“To wash the interior and exterior of a vehicle, I charge N500 to N1, 500, but washing the underneath costs between N1, 000 and N3, 000. I also wash the engines, which is really delicate because sometimes after doing this, the vehicle may develop some electrical faults. This is the main reason a professional has to handle it.
“I wash an average of 10 cars a day and almost thrice this number on weekends. This business has paid my bills and enabled me to embark on other ventures while still doing it,” he stated.
On what it takes to go into the business, Chika Emodi explained that one must have the skill to tell the differences in colours, identify hard and soft water and even know what to do to soften hard water, where there is no other option. He noted that soap does not lather easily in hard water and is also not so good on some colours. Recommending that a new entrant needs to learn the technicalities of the business, network with those already in the trade and be ready to adapt to changes, he said clean water is the best for a good washing.
“The business goes beyond being sited at busy locations or notable public spaces. New entrants must be ready to learn, adapt to changes because new machines, tools and even chemicals are introduced to the business on a regular basis. We now have different detergents and waxes that are capable of brightening vehicle colours.
“Also, the charges must be moderate, so that customers would not take advantage of cheaper rate elsewhere to avoid one’s services,” he said.
Emodi further disclosed that though location and customers’ status determine the charges, one has to make provision for all manners of vehicles, including tricycles and motorbikes, if one wants quick returns in the business.
“Never say no to owners of motorcycles or tricycles because though their charges may be small (between N300 and N1, 000), they could help to advertise one’s centre, patronise your outfit heavily, while the big ones such as trailers and tankers trickle in.
“At times while waiting for one trailer or tanker to come, one may have washed over 20 motorcycles and tricycles. One has to study his/her environment to know what is obtainable and plan to have an edge above others in the market,” he said.
Highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of the business, Ramoni Habeeb explained that one can start with N50, 000 to N100, 000, so long there is a regular source of good water and a channel for the disposal of waste water, so that it would not constitute a nuisance to the public. He said a fresher can start small with water from public water supply and with time have his/her borehole.
“I started small by using brushes and soft sponges to wash small vehicles and motorcycles. However, I graduated to washing heavy-duty vehicles, including trailer with time. Today, I use pressure machines and hoses of different kind and have five staff on my payroll. If you know the technicalities, the business can take one to great heights. I started on a rented stand and depended heavily on public water, but today I have moved up to the point of having a borehole system that supplies regular water.
“The market is large and not bound by seasons. And though the seasons bring different challenges, the truth remains that each season opens up a new challenge to make more money. Dry season come with dust, which means regular wash; the rainy season brings mud, which is another opportunity. So, which ever way one looks at it, the car wash business has no dull moment,” he said.